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      Aptamers: Active Targeting Ligands for Cancer Diagnosis and Therapy


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          Aptamers, including DNA, RNA and peptide aptamers, are a group of promising recognition units that can specifically bind to target molecules and cells. Due to their excellent specificity and high affinity to targets, aptamers have attracted great attention in various fields in which selective recognition units are required. They have been used in biosensing, drug delivery, disease diagnosis and therapy (especially for cancer treatment). In this review, we summarized recent applications of DNA and RNA aptamers in cancer theranostics. The specific binding ability of aptamers to cancer-related markers and cancer cells ensured their high performance for early diagnosis of cancer. Meanwhile, the efficient targeting ability of aptamers to cancer cells and tissues provided a promising way to deliver imaging agents and drugs for cancer imaging and therapy. Furthermore, with the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology, the conjugation of aptamers with functional nanomaterials paved an exciting way for the fabrication of theranostic agents for different types of cancers, which might be a powerful tool for cancer treatment.

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          Most cited references113

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          Systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment: RNA ligands to bacteriophage T4 DNA polymerase.

          L Gold, C Tuerk (1990)
          High-affinity nucleic acid ligands for a protein were isolated by a procedure that depends on alternate cycles of ligand selection from pools of variant sequences and amplification of the bound species. Multiple rounds exponentially enrich the population for the highest affinity species that can be clonally isolated and characterized. In particular one eight-base region of an RNA that interacts with the T4 DNA polymerase was chosen and randomized. Two different sequences were selected by this procedure from the calculated pool of 65,536 species. One is the wild-type sequence found in the bacteriophage mRNA; one is varied from wild type at four positions. The binding constants of these two RNA's to T4 DNA polymerase are equivalent. These protocols with minimal modification can yield high-affinity ligands for any protein that binds nucleic acids as part of its function; high-affinity ligands could conceivably be developed for any target molecule.
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            Systemic administration of optimized aptamer-siRNA chimeras promotes regression of PSMA-expressing tumors.

            Prostate cancer cells expressing prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) have been targeted with RNA aptamer-small interfering (si)RNA chimeras, but therapeutic efficacy in vivo was demonstrated only with intratumoral injection. Clinical translation of this approach will require chimeras that are effective when administered systemically and are amenable to chemical synthesis. To these ends, we enhanced the silencing activity and specificity of aptamer-siRNA chimeras by incorporating modifications that enable more efficient processing of the siRNA by the cellular machinery. These included adding 2-nucleotide 3'-overhangs and optimizing the thermodynamic profile and structure of the duplex to favor processing of the siRNA guide strand. We also truncated the aptamer portion of the chimeras to facilitate large-scale chemical synthesis. The optimized chimeras resulted in pronounced regression of PSMA-expressing tumors in athymic mice after systemic administration. Anti-tumor activity was further enhanced by appending a polyethylene glycol moiety, which increased the chimeras' circulating half-life.
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              Analytical applications of aptamers.

              So far, several bio-analytical methods have used nucleic acid probes to detect specific sequences in RNA or DNA targets through hybridisation. More recently, specific nucleic acids, aptamers, selected from random sequence pools, have been shown to bind non-nucleic acid targets, such as small molecules or proteins. The development of in vitro selection and amplification techniques has allowed the identification of specific aptamers, which bind to the target molecules with high affinity. Many small organic molecules with molecular weights from 100 to 10,000 Da have been shown to be good targets for selection. Moreover, aptamers can be selected against difficult target haptens, such as toxins or prions. The selected aptamers can bind to their targets with high affinity and even discriminate between closely related targets. Aptamers can thus be considered as a valid alternative to antibodies or other bio-mimetic receptors, for the development of biosensors and other analytical methods. The production of aptamers is commonly performed by the SELEX (systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment) process, which, starting from large libraries of oligonucleotides, allows the isolation of large amounts of functional nucleic acids by an iterative process of in vitro selection and subsequent amplification through polymerase chain reaction. Aptamers are suitable for applications based on molecular recognition as analytical, diagnostic and therapeutic tools. In this review, the main analytical methods, which have been developed using aptamers, will be discussed together with an overview on the aptamer selection process.

                Author and article information

                Ivyspring International Publisher (Sydney )
                20 January 2015
                : 5
                : 4
                : 322-344
                1. Department of Chemistry, School of Arts and Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, USA.
                2. Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, USA.
                Author notes
                ✉ Corresponding author: jzhao@ 123456chem.und.edu (J.X. Zhao); min.wu@ 123456med.und.edu (M. Wu).

                *These authors contributed equally.

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interest exists.

                © Ivyspring International Publisher. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/). Reproduction is permitted for personal, noncommercial use, provided that the article is in whole, unmodified, and properly cited.

                Molecular medicine
                aptamer,cancer diagnosis,cancer therapy,theranostics,target imaging,drug delivery,nanomaterials.


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